Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...

~Scott Truitt, FOUNDER


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I was chatting with someone at lunch today about President Obama’s commitment to bring home the majority of our Troops from Iraq by August of 2010. One of the biggest issues that our Veterans of Iraq will face in their transition back to the States is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as have Veterans who came before them. In a discussion I had a little over a year ago with a counselor at the Seattle Veteran’s Center, the counselor said that current stats showed that 1 in 5 Veterans returning from a combat zone had PTSD. However, he also noted that he thought that number was grossly underestimated due to the high number of Troops who feel a responsibility to handle their stress on their own and not complain when they feel that there were others who had it worse than they do. His best guess was that the reality was probably closer to 75% - 85%.

Admittedly, I am not an expert on PTSD. But in my observation with counselors and Troops who have experienced PTSD, it appears that PTSD can range widely from relatively minor changes in personality to severe stress, flashbacks, and acts of violence. In a documentary movie that I just watched this past weekend called “Brothers at War”, the girlfriend of one Soldier remarked at how different he was upon his return from Iraq. She said that he’s much more serious; that he doesn’t laugh as much; in fact, he doesn’t show any emotion at all. In fact, he gets irritated at her when she gets emotional.

In another conversation that I had recently, a woman told me of a personal friend of hers who was married to a Marine Veteran of Iraq. His PTSD led to vivid, violent dreams wherein he believed he was being attacked. During one such dream, he physically attacked his wife and snapped her neck. Fortunately, after spending ten days in the hospital, she recovered. Most unfortunately, she returned home to discover that her husband had hung himself.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this has to stop. Now.

Again, having no personal experience in combat or with PTSD myself, I asked a friend, a Master Sergeant with over 20 years experience and three tours in Iraq about his. I told him that, in my observation, today’s military is doing an excellent job of training our Troops to disassociate from their fear and rely on their training in stressful situations so that they can get their job done and survive. But where they are falling short is in training our Troops on what to do with that fear and stress when they are no longer in combat, when the adrenaline is no longer pumping, and when that fear comes back up from where they stuffed it. I asked him if he would agree with that analysis. He replied, in a nutshell, yes – that’s exactly it.

I asked my friend what I could do to help. I said, I’m not an expert at PTSD – I don’t know what to do, or how to be of any help. He replied that, aside from his therapy, the most important thing he can do to deal with the feelings is to talk about it. The most important thing I can do – we can do, then, is to listen. Don’t judge it. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t justify it, minimize it, or try to fix it. Just listen. Know that you’ll never truly understand it unless you’ve been there, and that’s ok. Try to as best you can. The most important thing is simply to be there for them – to create a safe space where they can let this stuff out.

There will be opportunities in the near future for us to take proactive steps to help our Veterans deal with the hell we’ve put them through, and to prevent future generations from having to experience combat-related PTSD. I hope that when that opportunity presents itself you’ll join me in taking action. In the mean time, let’s practice being there for our Veterans.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Being Right vs. Being Productive

In my fifteen years with my wife, one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned is the difference between being right and being productive. Occasionally you’ll be fortunate enough to accomplish both, but in my experience those times are few and far between. I don’t know if this realization came through the wisdom that comes with maturity, or if it was a result of years and years of trial and error, or both. But what has become clear to me is that “right” is a matter of personal opinion, and it depends greatly on one’s own point of view, experiences, values, beliefs, and priorities. There is no capital “R” Right. There is my right, and there is your right, and they are both equally real. Therefore, arguing a point to be right will either end in a deadlock, or in one party capitulating to the other, not because of a meeting of the minds or a realization of a universal truth, but rather just to end the argument. Minds have not been changed, and therefore the argument is likely destined to be revisited at a future date, perhaps under the guise of a different issue.

If you can let go of the need to be right, you can then look an issue instead from the standpoint of asking, “How can I be productive? How can I get what I want?” More often than not, getting what you want requires finding creative solutions that allow the other party to get what they want, as well. Sometimes all this requires is understanding where the other party is coming from, and acknowledging or validating that. Sometimes it requires a give and take, where you offer something in return for what they are offering you. But it always requires mutual respect.

The most acute examples of this lesson have come for me in my relationship with my wife. Our romantic partners are wonderful mirrors for showing us who we are and challenging us to decide who we want to be. But the lesson is equally applicable to family, friends and coworkers, countrymen, and fellow human beings throughout the world. Wars have been fought over “Right”. They’ve never been productive. As you encounter and relate to others I’d encourage you to ask yourself whether your focus is on being right and proving the other wrong; and if it is, ask yourself how that is working out for you, and whether there might be another way to approach the situation that might be more productive. Your ego may fight you on it, as mine has from time to time – it is critically important to the ego to be right. But I think you’ll find in the end that it is much more satisfying to be respectful and understanding of others and get what you want than it is to stick steadfastly to your own position, firmly entrenched in your righteousness, but still not getting what you want.

Being right always comes at a cost, and sometimes those costs can be high – lost jobs, estranged relationships, loved ones lost. Perhaps, just perhaps, if more of us as a global community were focused on being productive rather than being right, we would never again send our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters off to fight one more war to defend our righteousness. Perhaps we could be productive enough to find solutions without war. Hmm… just think of it…

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On Remembering

I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they told me that they loved our campaign, but that they had a bad memory, and usually remembered The Sign about 20 minutes after having seen a member of our armed forces. I suggested to them that they might want to think about a ritual or a habit that they could adopt that would remind them.

For instance, every day I wear something that reminds me to be in a place of gratitude toward those who are serving to defend my freedom. Sometimes it’s a set of dog tags, or a bracelet, other days it’s a t-shirt or a sweatshirt with thegratitudecampaign logo on the front. I don’t wear these to show my gratitude or to express it to those who serve – I wear them to remind myself to be in a state of gratitude. The ritual of putting it on, and of catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror or a store window and seeing that logo periodically throughout the day creates a subtle, repeated reminder that I am Free, and I am grateful to those who have provided that to me.

The things that I wear are all things that we have sold in the past, or are currently selling on our web site to help support our campaign. But these kinds of rituals can be done without even buying anything. If a purchase from our web site isn’t workable for you right now, try simply printing out our logo from the header of our web site. Tape it to your bathroom mirror next to your sink, or carry it in your pocket or purse so that every day, at least once a day, you’ll see it and remember those who serve. And even if for just a couple of seconds each day, you’ll be in a state of gratitude, and imagine expressing that gratitude to someone who serves.

Then, on that day that you do see someone in uniform, or perhaps a Veteran wearing a memorial hat or pin, you’ll remember that logo you saw just that morning, or on your shirt right then. You’ll remember what they’ve done for you. And you’ll show your gratitude – either verbally, or with The Sign -- the Sign that you now know immediately, because you've seen it every single day. And then perhaps, as I’ve been told by many Service Personnel, in that moment they will remember why they serve, and be as proud of that as they have every right to be.

Monday, February 1, 2010

On Giving Power to the Positive

There is a rule in business, specifically with respect to customer service, that a happy customer will tell three people about their positive experience, while an unhappy customer will tell ten people about their negative experience. I was discussing that with someone last week when I realized that I had accepted that statistic as self-evident, without ever considering why that would be. Why do we do that? Why do we tell more people about our negative experience than we do our positive experience? Isn’t the positive experience the one that we want to reinforce? So why do we put more time and energy into focusing on what’s wrong than we do on what’s right?

The hypothesis that I developed in the midst of this conversation was that perhaps we focus on what we feel needs to be changed. If an experience went well for us, perhaps we decide that no action needs to be taken beyond continuing to do what is already working. Whereas if we observe that a situation, circumstance, or experience is not working, then something needs to change. And in order for someone to change it, they need to understand what doesn’t work about the current situation. So we are all too happy to tell them all the things that are wrong with what they’re doing. Of course that’s not really true -- we seldom tell the person who can actually affect change what the change is that needs to happen. Instead we tell everyone else.

It is an interesting question to ponder: What would happen if we spent as much or more of our time and energy focusing on what people are doing right, as opposed to what they’re doing wrong? It seems a given that we would get more of what we want more often if we told others what they were doing right, rather than only telling them what they’re doing wrong, leaving them guessing as to what “right” would be.

For my part, right now I’d like to applaud those who respect others’ right to their own opinion, and can share ideas without having to be right or prove the other wrong. I applaud those who are fair minded, and can see beyond their own egoic needs and serve the greater good. I applaud those who are willing to own their mistakes and admit them to others so that others may learn from them, as well. I applaud those who can hear others admit their mistakes and forgive, knowing that we all make them. I applaud those who serve their fellow man; whether it be through their place of worship; social service; police, fire, or medical service; or any number of other ways, including those who serve in the Armed Forces. And I applaud those who serve simply by sharing positive thoughts, and speaking up when they see what’s working.

Scientists have discovered that happiness is contagious; meaning that we become more happy simply being around others who are happy. In fact, we can become happier if someone two degrees away from us is happier – a friend of a friend. In fact, it still works if a friend of a friend of a friend is happier – we will become happier. So, given that, I’ll leave you with this question:

What are you spreading around?